For those of you who know me, know that my first ever Android handset was the original Motorola Droid. The QWERTY slide out phone was responsible for launching the Android ecosystem we have today (sorry G1 owners, it’s true). It was a premium handset running a vanilla version of Android 2.0. At the time their were no OEM skin or overlays, just Android. A short time afterwards developers and carriers started adding their own bloatware and significantly hampering the pure experience of Android. Google’s answer to this was their Nexus lineup. A developer phone that was made available to the general public. As great as the Nexus lineup is, it always left people wanting more. Google’s answer to this is the “Google Play Editions” of popular devices like the Galaxy S4 and HTC One. The only hitch to this idea is that it’s only available in the Play Store. The general public has no idea they exist. Not to mention you can not get them on a contracted price, which means you’d have to pay full retail. Something a lot of people aren’t willing to do just to have stock Android, especially when GPE ROMs exist for the same contracted device.
Enter Android Silver
According to reports from The Verge, Google will be making a huge marketing push for high end devices running pure Android in carrier and retail stores. The hope is the consumer will be given a choice between buying the same handset with two different software options. This has been what Android fans have been calling for. How many among you would rather buy a Galaxy S5 running pure Android right out of the box with no bloatware? Apple does this. They play by a different set of rules than that of Android manufacturers. The first thing most of us do when we get a new phone is get rid of the carrier bloat, either by rooting the phone or simply disabling and hiding the app. The Silver program would essentially put the selected Android handsets on the same playing field as Apple.
Will it Sell?
The elephant in the room, however, is price. If these Silver devices aren’t sold at the same subsidized price as their OEM skinned counterparts they will fail. Even if the prices are the same, their is still a chance that the devices will fail due to the lack of features. Praise stock Android all you want, but overlays like Sense 6.0 and Touchwiz are chalked full of features that stock Android just doesn’t have. This might force the average consumer to still buy the skinned version. Let’s face it, stock Android isn’t a big seller in the general public, just look at Motorola. Their Droid Line up and the Moto X run an almost complete stock experience, yet they still lag well behind that of their competition in terms of sales.
No More Nexus
The most shocking news/rumor of this story is the demise of the Nexus phone. Google’s highly affordable flagship has almost always been the go-to-device to get the latest and greatest from Android. As a former Nexus owner this really saddens me. It’s also a big hit to developers, who now have to pay full retail price for an unlocked phone to work on. The surprising part about this whole development is that it could have gone a completely different direction and most likely gotten better results. What if instead of releasing GPE devices in carrier stores, a high end “Nexus Prime” was sold? A Nexus device that easily rivals that of Samsung and HTC, but is also sold at both on and off contract. A lower end Nexus device could be made available for developers on the Play Store, but the general public could finally get an option straight from Google, with the same special treatment that Apple gets. I would be the first in line to extend my contract with AT&T if it meant I could get an untouched super-Nexus device.
We still don’t know enough about this program to make any final judgements. My feelings are a bit mixed. I love the idea of having a choice between a stock and skinned version of android, I just don’t see this being very successful.